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A sense of detachment permeates the lives of the women in this short story collection, yet readers will find themselves riveted.

They drink too much, keep company with the wrong men (or perhaps the men are right and they are wrong), and moon around their lives like bored teens with nothing to do but find trouble on a sultry summer day. Some have money, others are seriously strapped for cash. Most are educated, all are smart—even if they don’t make smart choices. The women who slouch around the centers of Miller’s (The Last Days of California, 2014, etc.) short stories—drinking dive-bar beer or mixed drinks made strong, ordering in pizza or getting fast food from the drive-thru lane, binge-watching TV, and looking for love in all the wrong places—are all about squandered potential, loneliness, and listlessness, distance where closeness should be and vice versa. They may be frustratingly disconnected, indifferent to the men who love them, attracted to those who maybe don’t. Their relationships with boyfriends, husbands, and exes, parents, siblings, friends, and neighbors are complicated, yet many seem stuck. What's holding them in place? Laziness? Fear? “I guess my main problem with her is that she doesn’t seem to be afraid of anything,” the protagonist of one story, “The House on Main Street,” a divorced Southern grad student, says of her roommate, Melinda, a New Yorker who eats different foods (fresh meats she buys at the farmers market), writes different poetry (“about apples and trees and never become more than apples and trees”), and beds a different sort of man (“Baptist and clean-cut and gets along well with everyone”) than she. When Melinda is out, Miller’s protagonist sneaks into her bedroom to look at her stuff, marveling at how distinct the trappings of her roommate's life are from her own, never touching a thing. “I just stand in her space feeling like an intruder,” she says. The reader may respond the same way to the 16 stories in this collection, which feel both homey and exotic, limning lives at once familiar and distinctly their own.

Like a two-for-one drink special or a boxful of beer, this bracingly strong collection may prove intoxicating.

Pub Date: Jan. 10th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-63149-218-1
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Liveright/Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2016


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